It is all too common to hear the words “hopeless” and “intractable” when talking about the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. We disagree. The road to peace may be long and difficult, but peace is neither impossible nor a cause in which grassroots activism can’t make a difference. To the contrary, we believe grassroots, person-to-person initiatives are essential.
A few short years ago the HIV/AIDS crisis in developing countries appeared hopeless. Today, through the efforts of governments, the pharmaceutical industry, NGO’s, and grassroots activists and volunteers, 15 million HIV-positive people in developing countries are being treated with anti-retroviral drugs and leading healthy and normal lives. The peace process in Israel and Palestine calls for the same kind of broad coalition working for peace.
In Israel-Palestine grassroots efforts toward reconciliation and cooperation are growing and need our help. Without broad public support for peace from both Palestinians and Israelis, government leaders on both sides are unable to make the difficult decisions needed for a permanent peace. There are numerous efforts tied to peace that churches and individuals can engage with and support. Here are a few examples that Presbyterians are supporting now:
Since 2001, Auburn Theological Seminary’s Face to Face / Faith to Faith program has brought together hundreds of Christian, Jewish and Muslim teenagers from Northern Ireland, the Middle East, South Africa, and the U.S. to develop a new generation of leaders able to negotiate a multifaith global society. Teens learn how their own religious traditions and those of others can be used to build a more peaceful world.
Auburn’s Seminarian Program on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict brings together rabbinic students and Christian seminarians to learn about each other’s communal, political, and theological perspectives on Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and the regional conflict.
Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is a charity that brings children with serious heart conditions to Israel for life-saving heart surgery. Approximately one-half of the children treated are Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, and SACH has trained Palestinian doctors in pediatric heart surgery that are now practicing in the West Bank. This is a project that both saves children’s lives and builds bridges between Israelis and Palestinians.
The mission of Hand in Hand is to create a strong and inclusive society in Israel through a growing network of integrated, bilingual schools and shared communities for Jews and Arabs. Bringing together Jewish and Arab children from kindergarten through high school in its highly successful schools, along with people of all ages in shared communities, Hand in Hand aims to build viable partnership, peace education, coexistence and equality.
YaLa Young Leaders, an internet-based youth peace movement founded by the Peres Center for Peace and YaLa Palestine. The movement now has over 400,000 member/supporters across the entire Middle East/North Africa region. The YaLa Young Leaders facebook page gets over 200,000 hits per day. It may well be that the next generation of Middle East leaders brings sustainable peace to the region. Projects like YaLa recognize this and work for a better future.
Below are website addresses for these and additional projects worthy of support. We hope that you will consider Middle East Peace one of the mission projects your congregation actively supports.
Save a Child’s Heart www.saveachildsheartus.org
Hand-in Hand www.handinhandk12.org
Peres Center for Peace www.peres-center.org
The Abraham Fund Initiatives www.Abrahamfund.org
Givat Haviva www.givathaviva.org.il/english